Business Performance Assessment Program Warning Flag 4 – Effort Bias

StrategyDriven SBusiness Performance Assessment Program Warning Flag ArticleSuperiors often find it difficult to provide critical feedback to those who put their very heart and soul into their work. Individuals receiving such messages tend to interpret them personally; feeling disappointment, regret, and unappreciated. Rather than constructively improving their performance, these individuals become less productive and contribute substantially less to the organization. Consequently, business performance assessment leaders frequently seek plausible justification to avoid criticizing these individuals’ performance; recognizing their exceptional effort while ignoring the results achieved. Doing so, however, foregoes the improvement opportunities and sacrifices the associated gains that could otherwise be realized.[wcm_restrict plans=”47813, 25542, 25653″]

Crediting exceptional effort without correspondingly outstanding results should be avoided. While effort should be recognized, assessment leaders must not be so biased as to allow employees’ effort to obscure the identification, documentation, communication, and pursuit of performance improvement opportunities.

Effort biased leaders diminish their organization’s ability to improve and, therefore, to remain competitive. While not all inclusive, the four lists below, Process-Based Warning Flags, Process Execution Warning Flags – Behaviors, Potential, Observable Results, and Potential Causes, are designed to help organization leaders to recognize whether their business performance assessments preferentially recognize effort over results and forego real performance improvement opportunities. Only after a problem is recognized and its causes identified can the needed actions be taken to move the organization toward improved performance.

Process-Based Warning Flags

  • Assessment guidelines drive effort recognition without a corresponding results requirement
  • Performance evaluations, merit pay increases, and bonus are overly tied to achievement of high assessment grades/results

Process Execution Warning Flags – Behaviors

  • Organization leaders associate value contributed to time spent working rather than actual results achieved
  • Managers reward those who appear to be busy
  • Executives and managers do not openly challenge assessment conclusions based on effort

Potential, Observable Results

  • Work progress tends to remain at 90 percent complete
  • Employees take on ‘busy-work’ and/or seek to ‘look busy’
  • Competitors routinely outperform the organization
  • Better performing employees leave the organization because of its lack of value for superior performance (behaviors plus results)

Potential Causes

  • Executives and managers are uncomfortable holding peers and subordinates accountable
  • Self-assessment team leaders fear hurting the feelings of those critiqued
  • The organization’s culture does not value constructive feedback as a tool for continuous improvement
  • The organization values perceived effort over performance (behaviors plus results)

Final Thoughts…

Business performance assessments crediting effort without results rarely occur in organizations with a culture that embraces these introspective assessments as a learning opportunity, not a witch hunt. While delivery of the self-assessment’s findings should always be done with respect and tact, no one is served when the message is diluted or hidden.

In addition to avoiding an effort biased spin in one’s own self assessments, leaders should watch for similar messaging coming from external overseers. If such spin is conveyed by these groups, an effort should be made to probe for the underlying causes so to be able to identify and correct the unreported issues.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”47813, 25542, 25653″]

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About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

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